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Use of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) (Drones)


No School, College, Service or member of staff or student, or 3rd Party is permitted to fly or authorise the flying of a drone for University-business (or over University property) without prior approval of the Health and Safety Office (HSO).

FROM 30th NOVEMBER 2019 and for drones over 250g, you have a legal obligation to pass the Drone Test and Register with the CAA before you fly.  This will be checked as part of the University authorisation process.

What is a Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA)?

An SUA is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. Its flight controlled either autonomously by on-board computers or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle. Their use was historically associated with the military but in recent years SUAs have become readily available for use in work activities eg surveys, event filming, fauna research.

Due to their size, and use of high-speed rotors / blades to propel them, SUAs can be dangerous if not handled correctly. Accidents and incidents associated with their use has increased in recent years.

Legislative Requirements

If an SUA is flown for ‘valuable consideration’ i.e. any kind of benefit (monetary and non-monetary), its use is classed as a ‘Commercial Operation’ and therefore falls under the remit of the Civil Aviation Authority, (CAA). This requires the University, in addition to those general duties in law, to meet the specific legal requirements of a commercial aviation operator applicable to the type of aircraft being flown. The University must implement procedures in accordance with CAP393: Air Navigation: The Order and Regulations (ANO).

Commercial Operation

The CAA and ANO stipulates that before any person operates a SUA to undertake aerial work for ‘valuable consideration’ and a ‘commercial operation’ they must:

  1. Ensure any person operating a SUA (Remote Pilot (RP)) has appropriate training as required by the CAA.
  2. Obtain a CAA Permission for Commercial Operations (undertaken by HSO).
  3. Submit an Operations Manual as part of the Permission process detailing the arrangements to manage SUA activities.
  4. Register the details of any person operating SUAs (RP) (includes full disclosure of relevant qualifications) and any SUA operated with the CAA.
  5. Re-submit the Operations Manual and Permissions for further approval to the CAA as required. This includes the annual re-certification, and each time a newly qualified RP or different type of SUA is used.

The University does use SUA for activities deemed a ‘Commercial Operation’. As such, the University has a CAA Permission which allows the University’s Drone Officer who is named on the CAA Permission to fly drones for a ‘Commercial Operation’. The Drone Officer is qualified to the mandatory standard set by the CAA and has also been authorised by the Health and Safety Office (HSO). The CAA Permission also lists the SUAs the Drone Officer will fly on a University Commercial Operation.

Non-commercial Operation

The University must also ensure robust arrangements are in place to manage the use of any SUAs on University business that are not deemed a commercial operation. The Policy details these arrangements which all Colleges, Services, staff and students must comply with.

Use of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) Policy

To support ‘commercial’ and ‘non-commercial’ SUA use, the University has developed the Use of Small Unmanned Aircraft (drones) Policy that places a duty on each Dean of College / Head of Service to establish systems to ensure any SUA used by their College / Service is operated safely and correctly. This in order to prevent harm to any person, the environment and / or assets.

The following summarises key College / Service Policy responsibilities:

  1. Ensure H&S Office authorisation is obtained and CAA Permission is in place where required
  2. Ensure Staff and Students understand the procedures associated with the use of SUAs, including competency and authorisation requirements.
  3. Provide appropriate training and supervision to enable Staff and Students to operate SUAs correctly and safely.
  4. Maintain all relevant records e.g. training, authorisations.
  5. Monitor SUA use, with concerns or changes in SUA activity notified to the H&S Office immediately.

3rd Party Commissions

  1. When commissioning a 3rd Party to operate a UAV on behalf of the College / Department, confirming the organisation has an appropriate CAA Permissions, have trained and registered Pilots, Insurances, Data Permissions (eg Filming Agreement) and are experienced in the type of work.
  2. Informing HSS of the intention to appoint a 3rd Party, using the 3rd Party-led SUA Operation Approval Form, to the H&S Office with approval received before work takes place. This includes details of where over flying will take place and confirmation of safe distances from people and property.
  3. Where aerial work is around or above University buildings or property, inform relevant Schools / Services of the SUA work and controls that are in place and where appropriate, agree the time of overflying to minimise disruption.
  4. If filming above land / property ‘not owned’ by the University seek written permission of the person responsible for that area before submitting the 3rd Party-Led SUA Operation Form to the H&S Office.

Recreational Use / Flying Drones for Fun

You are responsible for each flight. Legal responsibility lies with you and failure to fly responsibly could result in criminal prosecution. The CAA has a detailed website with important information. Please follow The Drone Code to make sure you are flying safely and legally and REMEMBER from 1st October 2019 and for drones over 250g, you must pass the drone test and register with the CAA before you fly.

Recreational Drone Flight; in simple terms, the regulations state that:

  • Don’t fly near airports or airfields
  • Remember to stay below 400ft (120m)
  • Observe your drone at all times – stay 150ft (50m) away from people and property and don't overfly
  • Never fly near aircraft
  • Enjoy responsibly

A great video on the basic drone regulations has been made by the First Person View drone association.